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This isn’t behaviour that’s confined to the past, lessons learned – mistakes are being repeated today.

And not just in WA.Figures published last year by VicHealth who surveyed 755 Aboriginals in Victoria revealed 97 per cent had been targets of verbal or physical abuse in the previous 12 months.

Up to 70 per cent had been targets of eight or more racist incidents; 67 per cent had been spat at; and 66 per cent had been told they did not belong.

Two weeks ago in Sydney, police shot two indigenous teenagers who had stolen a car, hitting a bystander in a crowded footpath. It sparked race tensions across the city, with protesters accusing the police of racism.

An internal police investigation is currently underway.Campaigners are citing crisis point in WA, with thousands of Aboriginals drinking themselves to death, living in squalor while workers on six-figure salaries help drive the boom.

Bob Neville, chairman of the Pilbara Association of Non-Government Organisations, said WA was “in the middle of the biggest resources boom we’ve ever seen, and locals have nothing to show for it”.

He called for an inquiry, telling Perth Now: “Every night they’re sleeping in the dirt on [mining magnate] Gina Rinehart’s doorstep. They’re dying from alcohol, drugs, poor nutrition and suicide.”

Pilger says Aboriginal incarcerations have more than doubled in WA during the resources boom. In his film, he highlights the case of an elder known as Mr Ward, arrested for drink-driving.In 50˚C heat, he was driven more than 300 miles in a prison van run by the British security company GSL.

“Mr Ward cooked to death, his stomach burned raw where he had collapsed on the van’s scorching floor ... The Department of Public Prosecutions refused to take action, saying there was ‘no evidence’. This is not unusual.”

About 60 per cent of WA’s young prisoners are indigenous – five times the rate of imprisonment for black people during apartheid in South Africa.Former prisons minister Margaret Quirk said the state was “racking and stacking” black Australians.

Richard Harding, former Inspector of Custodial Services, declared WA a “state of imprisonment”.

The reason, according to Dennis Eggington, CEO of the Aboriginal Legal Service of WA, is that Aboriginal children are being locked up for minor crimes.

They’re “being scooped up and poured into the justice system through this big hole that’s getting worse and worse”, he told Kimberley Mornings.

“Attempting to steal an ice-cream, stealing 10 hamburger buns ... all these sorts of crimes that don’t deserve young kids to be held in police custody, the court, then locked up.”

And not enough is being done to resolve these problems, says Pilger, adding: “More than any colonial society, Australia consigns its dirtiest secrets, past and present, to a wilful ignorance or indifference.”

UTOPIA is in cinemas from 15 November with a Nationwide Q&A with John Pilger on Monday 18 November at Picturehouse Cinemas.

Available on DVD 2 December.



Australia's dirtiest secret: John Pilger's new film shines a light on the treatment of Australia's Aboriginals
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